DJ drawing comparisons to Tiger after latest win

By Rex HoggardMarch 27, 2017, 12:41 am

AUSTIN, Texas – Comparing any player with Tiger Woods has always been patently unfair. Only history and Jack Nicklaus are playing the same game when you consider Woods at his best.

That matrix hasn’t changed regardless of Woods’ continued inactivity or the ever-growing cast of would-be world-beaters. But as Dustin Johnson put the finishing touches on another seminal week any alternative comparisons ring hollow.

Since winning the U.S. Open last June, Johnson has won six of 17 starts, including the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in dominant fashion. That’s a 35 percent winning clip that includes a major and three World Golf Championship keepsakes to become the first player to claim all four WGCs.

Jason Day’s tear through the fall of 2015 and spring of ’16 is a fair comparison when the Australian won seven times in 17 starts (41 percent) including a major, WGC and The Players. Jordan Spieth had a similar run in ’15 when he won four times, twice at a major, in 12 starts (33 percent); and Rory McIlroy went 4-for-14 (28 percent) in 2014-15 for two Grand Slam triumphs and a pair of WGCs.

But Johnson’s current run somehow echoes a little further than that of his contemporaries.

Maybe it’s because since overtaking Day atop the world ranking with his victory in February at the Genesis Open, Johnson has stretched his lead to more than 3 percentage points, which means he will maintain the top spot regardless of what happens at Augusta National in two weeks.

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Or perhaps it’s how he’s winning, with a sublime combination of power and poetry of motion. At Austin Country Club he never trailed in 112 holes, played just five holes without a lead and saw the final two holes just twice, both times on Sunday.

But the most telling comparison to the guy in red may have been how he gutted out his final two matches with something less than his best game. It was almost Tiger-like.

“Absolutely,” said Butch Harmon, Johnson’s current swing coach who also worked with Woods from ’93 to ’03, when asked if the comparison is fair.

“He drives it great like TW back in the day. He's a good putter, not great, but good. He has learned to hit irons off tees which I've been pushing for seven years, and has a 3-iron with a graphite shaft that he hits miles. He really now has become the total package. As you know nothing rattles him. That is a big plus.”

To be historically honest, Woods’ run in 2000, for example, included nine wins in 20 starts (45 percent) and three majors along with a WGC high card, but that doesn’t invalidate the parallel.

Statistically, Woods circa 2000 and Johnson’s current run are two sides of the same coin. In ’00, Woods was second in driving distance, first in greens in regulation, second in putting average and first in scoring average; while this season Johnson is first in driving distance, second in greens in regulation and 11th in scoring, although his putting average is 77th.

Of course, the real test awaits in two weeks when the major championship season gets underway at the Masters. For all of Woods’ accomplishments, any legitimate similarities begin and end at the Grand Slams. But if the reaction from those who now must face the stoic bomber is any indication, there are the early vestiges – however slight – of the shadow Woods cast across leaderboards in his prime.

“He looks unbeatable,” Hideto Tanihara, who faced DJ in the semifinals, said late Saturday. “I hope he doesn't feel good tomorrow, so maybe I have a chance.”

A day earlier, Zach Johnson took a similarly light-hearted approach to what is becoming the 800-pound gorilla in the locker room.

“I'm going to start texting him tonight and get in his kitchen. I think his time is about done. Physically he's not looking great,” joked Johnson after securing his round of 16 date with destiny, which turned out to be a 5-and-4 rout.

Fake laugh, hiding real pain.

Johnson is even starting to sound like Woods, giving an eerily familiar take on his play on Sunday at the Match Play, which featured his only two matches that went the distance.

“I definitely didn't play my best today in the first match or the second. So to win both those matches not having my best stuff is definitely a positive,” said Johnson, who defeated Tanihara (1 up) in his morning semifinal and star-in-waiting Jon Rahm (1 up) in the title match. “I'm definitely proud of the way I hung in there and played tough and just tried to never give away holes.”

And then there are the foreboding self-assessments. Overtaking Day in the world ranking has only galvanized Johnson’s desire to improve and he figured on Sunday that he’s not playing his best golf at the moment.

Always one of the game’s longest players, Johnson’s wedge game is now among the Tour’s best and his putting continues to be inexplicably overlooked. He led the field at the Match Play with 554 feet of putts made and converted every time he had to make a putt, like in his final four match against Tanihara when he rolled in clutch putts at Nos. 17 and 18.

There was a time in Johnson’s career when some wondered if he had the fortitude to close out big tournaments following near misses at the 2010 PGA Championship and 2015 U.S. Open, but those whispers have been replaced by rumblings of another variety.

“He has a long way to go to be TW, but he’s on a good track at the moment,” Harmon said.

Johnson is not Tiger Woods. There may never be another player like Woods. But the hyperbole of the comparison peels away when you study Johnson’s record over the last 10 months. It is by any measure Tiger-like.

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Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

"That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

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Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.